Susie Csorsz Brown
See what I did? I just made up my very own acronym. Ah, you might ask: What does the N.I.C.E. stand for? Nice Individuals who are Caring and Empathetic. I’m not saying we have to be all zen and sing Kumbaya, but really, I think we could all stand for a little more niceness. It's the New Year, right? This wouldn't be such a bad resolution, folks.
I’ve noticed a glaring lack of awareness of others lately. I don’t know why or how we got here, but it isn’t a very good place, behavior-wise. When you read or watch the news, it's one act of awfulness after another. I’m not going to get up on my soap box, but friends, we really need to be a little more kind. Recently, I read an article about inconsiderate people who won’t move for a pregnant woman on the metro. The article was sad enough; once I started to read the scathing comments below it, filled with even more obliviousness and outright rudeness about the state of being pregnant and rights to seats, etc, I was really saddened. Is this really the place I want my kids to live? Is this really what I want them to learn from? I have to ask myself: What kind of behavior would I rather they see and learn?
You know what I realized? Some people may not know what it means to be empathetic. According to the dictionary it means the ability to share and understand the feelings of another. This is what we are referring to when we ask our kids, ”How do you think that made him/her feel ... (when you put the gum in his hair/when you hit him with the shovel/when you pinched him with the chopsticks)?’ Often, my kids will stare at me blankly, not really sure of the answer. Indeed, big people -- their supposed examples to follow -- often could use a refresher course, I think. With empathy, we are not just being sympathetic (feeling sorrow or sympathy for), but really feeling how the other feels. There is an important difference. This is not about pity; this is about understanding.
I have started a one-woman greeting committee on my morning runs. Why? Why, indeed. I guess I figure if I can give at least a handful of people a cheery ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ then perhaps at least one or two of them will have a better day. And be nicer to someone in return. Oh sure, perhaps I am just actually irritating them, but it’s not like I am expecting socialization at 0530 in the morning. Even a grunt and a hand flap would do. Just someone acknowledging another’s existence, saying hi.
One of my favorite bumper stickers in college said ‘Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.’ (Ironically, this was ripped off of my car. Not such an act of kindness, methinks.) Do I practice this every day? I wish I could say yes. I do, though, try to be more kind than otherwise. I’ll be honest, it can take every bit of mental strength some days just to make it to bedtime. It can be so hard, especially when the kids are being … difficult. But most days I can see that I have it better off than others, and the least I can do is just do one small thing -– or ten small things -– and that might make someone else’s bad day a bit better. Beyond just saying hi to another sweaty runner on the path, making an effort usually costs me nothing. So why not?
What small acts of kindness have I done recently? I’ll share some of mine if you share some of yours.
Part of my job is to help others (new people, esp) feel welcome and get settled. I have found, though, that it makes a big difference if I get up and show them where things are, instead of just explaining it. I can clearly remember my arrival to post, and having to find things on my own, and it makes a difference to have the personal touch. I also invite folks who don't yet have their vehicles to go grocery shopping with me, because A) of course they need to go, B) it is AWFUL to have to go in a taxi, and C) I have to go anyway so why not share the trip with someone?
I took my child back to school once we had returned to the house because he found that he had someone else’s art from class in his backpack mail. He wanted to give the other boy his art (and get his back as well). The last thing I wanted to do was get back in the car with all three whiny kids (it was 103 that day), but I could see it really meant a lot to him. So, off we went. And his friend really appreciated it.
I stopped for every pedestrian I saw on a crosswalk for a week. I do generally anyway, but I made a conscious effort to do it.
I let the woman with her crying baby (and a fully loaded cart) go ahead of me in the grocery line. We had a half full cart, but my kids weren’t fighting (anymore) so we were good for a few extra minutes.
I went out of my way to go to a place that I didn’t want to go that would be filled with people I didn’t want to see so that I could go and give a friend a hug because I knew she would need it, even though I would hate being where I was. And I even got someone to mind my three kids so I could go and really be there for her instead of just chase after the hoodlums.
I listened. I listened to a friend when she needed to vent. I listened to a family member who really just needed someone there for him. I listened to my son when he had a bad day and was really upset. I listened to my hubby when he had to rewrite his paper yet again. I listened without just waiting for a pause so that I could have my say. I just listened.
Now, friends, I’m not saying we need to jump into the harbor and rescue a dog (see link below). You could do that, but please don’t if you’re not an apt swimmer. What I’m trying to say is I think we can do better, and do more, if only to give our kids an example of what we’re wanting. We can’t ask them to be more or to do more if we can’t do it ourselves, right? We have to try to get it right if we want them to keep the 'getting it right' going, don't we?
My inspiration for this: <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/pictures-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-humanity">http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/pictures-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-humanity</a>.
Let’s see more of these actions. Let’s be N.I.C.E.